Category: mother tongue

A Three Hundred Year Old Disagreement

It was my birthday yesterday and I was given a really fantastic present.

Hoole - Title Page.jpg

This is the title page of a book originally published in 1684, though my version is an impression from 1700. It is a text book for learners of Latin containing Latin colloquies (passages of everyday speech). Not untypical for publications of the time, the title of the book is 58 words long (see above).

Hoole - Excerpt.jpg

What is really cool about those 58 words are the 19 pictured above.

Now compare them to these words taken from the founding statutes of Adams’ Free Grammar School in Shropshire in 1656.

Fifteenth rule (combined scans).jpg

Fifteenthly No scholars that have attained to such a progress in learning as to be able to speak Latin, shall neither within School or without, when they are among the Scholars of the same or a higher form, speak English. And that the Master shall appoint which are the forms, that shall observe this order of speaking Latin, and shall take care that it be observed and due correction given to those that do neglect it.

Now, these 17th century expressions of the place a language learner’s mother tongue has in his or her education might seem familiar to teachers of language learners in the 21st century.

Here is England’s DfE on mother tongue use from 2006:

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And here is the first principle of inlingua language schools’ method from 2015:

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So, who’s right? Do we have any empirical evidence to settle this disagreement, a disagreement at least 331 years old? Are there any empirical studies that compare the effects of allowing children to use their mother tongue with the effects of forbidding it? We know that bilingual schools, on average, produce better linguistic and academic results for language learners than do all-English schools. But does this mean that allowing mother tongue use in language classes or in mainstream classes has the same effect?

I think it’s time this ancient argument was settled. And that’s what I’m hoping to achieve with my research.